Kiala is someone you notice right away. She is tall, has kind eyes and a broad, beaming smile. You can guess immediately she is friendly and a willing, hard worker. But what you can’t see are the daily difficulties she has faced to make ends meet for her and her two children – Naomi (8) and Matthew (7).
“I was young when I had my oldest, so I didn’t get to finish school,” she says. Since then, Kiala has been on a journey – to get ahead and to make a better life for her and her family.
Challenges along the way
Kiala, who lives in southeast Dallas, found a job at a hotel northwest of downtown. She welcomed the work, even though it means working the night shift. But, because she doesn’t own a car, getting there is a constant challenge. When she’s lucky, her boyfriend’s work schedule makes it possible for her to ride with him. Other times, the only way across town on public transportation requires making multiple bus and train transfers. Late at night, when she gets off work, she has to hope she can find a ride from co-workers going her direction.
Working at night means she misses spending afterschool and evenings with her children (who stay with Kiala’s mother). But, Kiala has stuck with it. It pays the bills, and it has made her other dream possible: going back to school. “I want more for my kids, and I want to be a good role model for them,” she says.
Every day for five months, after she walked her children to school, Kiala headed off to classes of her own at Wilkinson Center. She enrolled in the Adult Education program and prepared diligently to take the GED test. It wasn’t easy finding time to study, juggling being a single mom, working nights and pursuing her goals without transportation. Sonja Wright, Kiala’s Case Manager at Wilkinson Center, was there to help her find resources like emergency food, financial literacy classes and college certifications, plus provide moral support along the way.
“I love Kiala’s upbeat personality, drive and passion for being the best person she can be. She made it easy to help her along a path to self-sufficiency,” says Sonja. “I look forward to seeing what she becomes in the future, because the sky is not the limit for her! Her drive, passion and sweet personality will make room for her future accomplishments.”
Kiala continues to make progress toward her dream of being a medical office administrator and is looking into community college. Read more about her in this Dallas Morning News story about the many barriers that hard-working people like Kiala can face when trying to get ahead.